When I realized that the next chapter in Hidden Art was about writing, I’ll admit that I was none too eager to read it. That’s pretty crazy, considering the fact that I am a blogger (and as M.K. so eloquently points out, Schaeffer would probably adore the whole blogging phenomenon). I think my dread has something to do with the fact that while I greatly value writing, I’m finding such a hard time making time to do it thoughtfully and well in this season of life. This is so much the case that I can’t even fathom having time to do some of the more mundane (“hidden”) writing tasks she suggests: letters, notes in lunchboxes, even. Here’s a confession: Lulu turned nine last month, and one of the things I really wanted to do for her was write her a very personal letter for her birthday. However, her birthday happens to fall around Mother’s Day, and life begins to speed up considerably for us toward the middle of May and through June. It’s probably needless for me to say this, but I didn’t write the letter. I still haven’t written the letter. Steady Eddie and I are celebrating our fourteenth anniversary tomorrow, and I had plans of writing something meaningful to give to him. Have I done it? No. (This begs the question: why am I blogging instead of writing a passionate love letter to my precious husband? The answer: time and inclination. I can’t just dash something like this off, and lately the pace of our life doesn’t lend itself to the quiet contemplation something like that would require of me, alas.) For this post, though, instead of continuing to harp on my inability to do what I really, really want to do, I thought I’d take a little trip down memory lane.
One thing among many that stands out in my memory about my grandmother is that she kept a diary. Now this wasn’t a pour-your-heart-out, tell-all kind of journal; instead, it was merely a record of what she and my grandfather did from day to day. Actually, it is a rather boring collection of documents, except for those of us intimate with the way they spent their days. I like to go back and see who came to visit them and what they ate for dinner and what Papaw had recently spent money on. My grandfather died when I was about twenty, and Granny died when Lulu was almost one and I was newly pregnant with Louise. I’m not sure into whose hands these diaries have fallen, but I think I’ll find out.
I wrote a good bit as a teen and young adult. My one and only attempt at a short story (well, except for the one I wrote in about the third grade entitled “The Spider That (Almost) Conquered a City”) I entered in a talent competition held by our church’s denomination. My story placed at state and went on to the national competition. I’m sure now that I’d read it with a measure of embarrassment and liken it to the “bad” Christian fiction that I avoid nowadays, but still–it was something. I also kept journals, most of which I would cause me to die of embarrassment were anyone to actually read. However, one journal I’m happy I kept is the one in which I divulged all the secret joys of my budding relationship with Steady Eddie. It’s not completely without the recorded angst of young love, but mostly it’s just a record of the progression of our relationship until we were married. I’m very, very thankful I had the time (and took it!) to keep that journal.
I was also a letter writer as a kid. I had several international pen-pals, most notably one from Sweden and one from Sri Lanka. My Swedish penpal and I wrote each other for years until we outgrew the practice. I acquired both Asa and Neelangi as penpals thanks to International Youth Services, an organization which I learned through a quick Google search ended its operations as a match-maker for epistolary youth back in 2008. This is taken from the now-defunct IYS website:
“IYS will be closing down this summer, by 30th June 2008
The International Youth Service (IYS) has been operating since 1952, over 56 years now. We have arranged foreign pen friends for school children and students aged 10 – 20 years in over 100 different countries.
The Internet has lead to a situation where sending ordinary letters is old-fashioned. Letter writing, once very popular, is now a hobby of a few.
We have come to the end of a certain period. As we can not find enough young people interested in penfriendship any more, we have decided to close down this firm by 30th June 2008.
We thank all our customers, both children and teachers, in past years and wish you happy times. Don’t stop learning different languages and cultures and keep up those penfriendships you have managed to build up.
The staff of INTERNATIONAL YOUTH SERVICE”
I admit this takes me a bit by surprise, only because I guess I saw this organization as an institution that would never go away. In retrospect, though, it makes sense: why pen a letter when one can, with a few clicks of a mouse, send a missive into cyberspace and have a reply from halfway around the world in a matter of a very few minutes?
Another letter-writing practice I had as an old teen and young adult came about as a result of a letter-to-the-editor of Reminisce magazine. I very naively sent a letter, which they published, in which I identified myself as a sixteen year old girl who loved “old timey” things and particularly loved Anne of Green Gables and all things L.M. Montgomery. Well, I got responses by the big black garbage bag full! (And out of all the responses, I only got one–ONE–from a man with nefarious intentions. That’s amazing.) I even acquired an elderly gentleman (this one with the best of intentions) as a penpal. He enjoyed writing, and he shared everything from his poetry and favorite books to tales of his and his wife’s life in a state far north of Alabama. His letters were long and chatty–very L.M. Montgomery-esque. The last letter he wrote to me before I married was particularly poignant and beautifully written. Alas, I have also fallen out of contact with him, but it was a lot of fun while it lasted. (Lest this sounds really weird in this beknighted world in which the experienced prey upon the young and innocent, let me assure you that he always treated me as a far-away granddaughter, and I greatly valued his friendship.)
Well, this post on writing (which, remember, I dreaded the thought of) has gone on too long already. In an effort to steer this disorganized jumble of thoughts back to what inspired it to begin with, I wanted to mention that this chapter actually contains the most straightforward delineation between hidden versus unhidden art. Schaeffer says,
All art, whether ‘Hidden Art’ or Career Art, involves time, a giving of time to produce the art, and the communication which results from the art, whatever form it takes. (140)
This delineation was probably hinted at in other chapters, but this is the first time I noticed Schaeffer making the forthright distinction between Hidden versus Career.
And so this brings me back around to my original thought: that as much as I appreciate writing, nay, as much as I need to write, the missing ingredient for me right now is time. I know, I know–this is a season that will soon be past. I’m just doing what I can to keep a little tiny spark alive. (Of note since I first began this post: I have stopped a minimum of three times–probably more like four or five–and restarted. If it’s jumbled, that’s but one of the reasons.)